Earlier this month, I had the privilege of competing in the John Tanner State Park Sprint Triathlon with my friend and neighbor, Pascal Gouteix. The race was comprised of a 600 meter swim, followed by a 13.8 mile bike portion, followed by a 3.1 mile run. A sprint is the shortest triathlon distance and finishing one can be accomplished with moderate training. What Pascal did, though, was above and beyond anything I’ve ever personally witnessed at a race.
Due to complications from being born three months early, Pascal’s adorable three-year-old daughter, Julia, has encountered substantial health challenges in her young life, including Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy, and blindness. Just two weeks after being born, Julia was put into a medically induced coma. Pascal and his amazing wife, Kelly, were not even able to hold or touch Julia. It was during this time that most of her health challenges developed. Once out of the coma, she spent an additional four months in the hospital. Pascal and Kelly were told multiple times as they prepared for various surgeries that Julia had a 50/50 chance of surviving the procedures. However, she continually defied the odds, routinely beating time lines for healing, and was brought home 16 weeks and three days after waking from the coma.
Having never known an environment other than the hospital, Julia was very unsettled upon her arrival home. Desperate to soothe her, Pascal and Kelly took Julia outside. She immediately calmed down and started smiling. Throughout her young life, she has enjoyed the outdoors and Pascal and Julia formed a bond in running with him pushing her in a jogging stroller. With the exhilarating feeling of wind on her face, Julia and her dad have logged many miles together. Pascal had completed many triathlons on his own, but the idea of participating in a triathlon with Julia was sown when Pascal watched a 9-year-old boy swim, pull, and push his younger brother, who has Cerebral Palsy, through a children’s triathlon in which Pascal’s oldest daughter, Emilie, was also competing.
Unknown to Pascal, Kelly submitted his story and his desire to participate in a triathlon with Julia to “The Bert Show,” which is a very popular morning Atlanta radio show. Pascal was chosen from many applicants and Pascal and Julia were featured in a Father’s Day special where The Bert Show provided them with $2,000 worth of equipment. Pascal then picked our triathlon and commenced training, with most of the swimming done in our neighborhood pool in the pre-dawn hours.
To say that Pascal did well on race day would be an understatement. At 44-years-old, he swam 600 meters in 18:08 while pulling Julia in a boat with a harness around his torso, biked the 13.8 miles in 56:01 towing her in a bike trailer, and then ran the 3.1 miles in 26:20 while pushing her in a jogging stroller. These numbers are even more impressive when you consider that Julia weighs 21 pounds and the boat, trailer, and stroller each weigh about 20 pounds.
Standing at the finish line with Pascal’s family and hearing a couple hundred people cheer Team Gouteix as they ascended the UPHILL finish was one of the most awe inspiring experiences I have ever had. I am lucky to know Pascal and his family and I can’t wait to see what other challenges Pascal and Julia take on. They already have their sights on a half-marathon in 2015! In addition to their impressive athletic performance, Team Gouteix also raised over $2,300 for the Fragile Kids Foundation with this triathlon. Fragile Kids is a non-profit organization that provides wheelchair lifts for homes and vans, ramping, specialty seating, bathing equipment, toileting equipment, therapy bikes, strollers, and much more to the medically fragile children of Georgia.
After a morning like Pascal had, you might guess that he spent the afternoon on his couch, perhaps watching football and generally just relaxing. He certainly would have earned that. You would be wrong, though, as Pascal actually walked our entire 224 house neighborhood that afternoon with his son, Jeremy, helping him sell popcorn for Cub Scouts. Pascal truly is “Super Dad” and his story is one that I thought should be told.
Thank you for reading.